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China upholds conviction for NY Times reporter

Posted by Author on December 1, 2006

Reuters, Nov 30, 2006-

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese court on Friday rejected the appeal of a Chinese researcher for the New York Times and upheld a three-year prison sentence handed down for fraud, his lawyer said.

The ruling by the Beijing Higher People’s Court was final. With the two years Zhao Yan has already been detained, it would keep him in jail until September 2007, his attorney, Guan Anping told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“It is not fair. It demonstrates that China’s judicial reforms have not been proceeding at the promised pace,” Guan said.

The Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court tried Zhao, a researcher in the Times’s Beijing bureau, in June and found him guilty of fraud, sentencing him to three years in jail in August for defrauding a rural official of 20,000 yuan ($2,500) in 2001.

The prosecution said Zhao took the money on the understanding that he would help the man avoid a sentence of “labor re-education” — a form of imprisonment police can impose without a trial.

But the court unexpectedly rejected a state secrets charge against Zhao over a 2004 story in the U.S. newspaper detailing a rivalry between Chinese President Hu Jintao and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, over military appointments.

Zhao was detained by Chinese state security personnel in Shanghai days after the story. Both Zhao and the Times have denied that he was the source of the story.

Guan said the defense had been denied the right to subpoena key witnesses in both the first and the second trial.

“Even though the existing Chinese criminal procedures already fall short of international standards, they are not seriously honored by the authorities,” Guan said.

An official at the Beijing higher court declined to comment when reached by telephone.

China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, with at least 32 in custody, according to the Paris-based advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.

Last Friday, the Beijing higher court upheld a five-year jail term given by a lower court to Ching Cheong, Hong Kong-based China correspondent for Singapore’s Straits Times, on charges that he spied for Taiwan. (Reuters)

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